Bad Day on Snorting Elk or Dufus Learns Humility
1990 skiing early season with two buddies down Snorting Elk at Crystal. I was skiing fast, forcing them to push to keep up because I wanted to impress them. One of them, Joel, was a doctor. This will come into play soon. You wanted to carry lots of speed on the bottom of the run because you had this fairly long rollie-pollie run-out through the woods that took you back to the Green Valley chair. If you didn’t carry speed you would have to skate, walk, slog, whatever and that wasn’t cool. Did I mention coverage was sketchy?
I had never given much thought to the rollie-pollies other than them being sometimes troublesome. With too little speed the dips could rob you of precious momentum, kickers usually didn’t develop to help you completely clear them and gapers did tend to congregate there and clog things up a bit. As I mentioned, I had never wondered why the rollie-pollies existed at all. It was just carry speed and get back to the lift with the minimum amount of work.
So it was on this early season day that I approached the run-out with lots of speed, content that I was impressing the hell out of my buddies. I negotiated the first dip without problem, skirting the skier who was on the ground gathering up his belongings. Ahead I saw a group of 4 or 5 skiers congregated at the next dip. It was with disdain and my best Billy Idol sneer that I rapidly closed on this group and shouted “On your left!”. I could see that at least one of them was sidestepping down into the bottom of the dip. “What a bunch of gapers”, I thought. “Wait till I show them how a real skier handles this”. I was simply going fly over the mother and leave them in the dust.
As I got right up to the dip I saw that there was no kicker to use for altitude. I also noticed, too late, that the dip was much wider than I had ever seen it before. It was much deeper, too. Damn, it also had a creek running through it that wasn’t covered with snow. Too late, I realized that I wasn’t going clear the far side of this thing and would be landing (impacting, crashing, dying) on the upslope across the creek.
I had an instant of clarity before I touched down where I came to realize that the dips were creek beds. I remember very clearly hearing one of the gapers say “Jesus f*#king, Christ!” as I flashed past. I remember that the skier who was sidestepping down into the dip never looked up as I flew above his head.
I was sitting back so that my tips would not dig into the bank and they didn’t. They stopped dead, side-by-side, right where I touched down on the upslope. I went over the handlebars and heard both heels release. My head went into the snow and I somersaulted three times, each time burying my head into the snow. Each somersault was punctuated by the bad sounds I could hear my neck making. I stopped with my legs spread wide, my butt, in the air and my head buried deep in the snow. Really appropriate for my actions, don’t you think?
My bell was rung. I became aware of where I was but my clarity was gone. As I sat up I could hear the cheering and the jeers coming from the group that I had so disdained. My hat was gone (found it at the bottom of the first impact crater), I only had one glove on, my poles hadn’t made it much further than my skis and my goggles were down around my neck with the lens barely attached. There was blood in the hole that I pulled my head out of.
I touched my face with my bare hand trying to determine the source of the blood. It wasn’t coming from my mouth or nostrils but it was dripping from the end of my nose. It was then that I saw the 1½” long strip of skin that was dangling from the tip of my nose. As I wagged my head back and forth it would follow suit, dripping blood. As my goggles had been forced down around my neck they had sliced a ¼” wide strip of skin from the bridge of my nose to the tip. For some reason the strip hadn’t been cut completely off so it dangled.
Joel, the doctor, finally arrived having negotiated the stream bed like one worthy of propagating the species. I asked him if my nose was badly cut and would I need stitches. He looked closely, produced some medical stuff from his fanny pack, put a bandage across my nose and said, “No. But it will be your most distinctive feature for some time to come.” And it was.
The scar hardly shows now except when I get too much sun. Also, I have to be careful drying my face off with a towel as the skin seems a little thin.